Music for Everyone

Average Joe

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Music for Everyone Review

by William Ruhlmann

On the back cover of this CD, Average Joe helpfully describes the musical style of each selection in parenthetical shorthand that ranges from "rock/soul" and "contemporary" to "Buffett-like" and "James Taylor-ish." And it's true that the band, emerging from a local bar scene into making its own music, necessarily brings along many identifiable influences and genres that reflect the popular music of the Orlando area, including reggae and the Caribbean lilt of Jimmy Buffett. But Average Joe is better understood as the songwriting and performing vehicle of the versatile Joe Gray Keliikipi, who has absorbed most of the dominant singer-songwriter styles of the previous 30 years to come to an eclectic American pop sound. He doesn't actually sound like James Taylor, even on the gentle, acoustic "Couple Of Roads," and he certainly doesn't sound like Jimmy Buffett, either on "Sail Or Stay" or on the other songs that recreate Buffett's easy-going island style. Sometimes, he sounds like Bruce Springsteen and sometimes like Bob Marley, but that's largely because of his throaty, sincere voice and earnest lyrics. But when you combine that voice with the group's range of musical styles, they sound most like Hootie and the Blowfish, who emerged from a local scene not far north the year before this album was released.